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Study connects Alzheimer’s with calcium imbalance in the brain

A recent study connects Alzheimer’s with calcium imbalance in the brain, MedicalNewsToday reports. The study was presented on February 14 at the Biophysical Society’s 61st Annual Meeting, which took place in New Orleans, Louisiana.

 

Researchers working on a viable way to reverse the neural damage of Alzheimer’s, with the help of the information newly acquired.
Photo: Visualhunt

 

This recent study, conducted by a team o researchers at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA, shows how calcium influences brain cells, proving that an excessive production of calcium leads to the death of neurons. More precisely, too much calcium accumulating in the mitochondria of a brain cell leads to a neurodegenerative process, which is characteristic to Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers compared brain cells from three models: one was from patients with Alzheimer’s, a second sample was from genetically modified mouse models that replicate the symptoms of the disease and a third sample consisted in mutated cells affected by Alzheimer’s.

In a healthy brain, a protein called sodium-calcium exchanger regulates the calcium exchange, thus preventing a build-up. This protein is barely there in a brain affected by Alzheimer’s. Moreover,  molecules ROS (reactive oxygen species) multiply to excess, causing neurodegeneration.

After identifying this protein – sodium-calcium exchanger – as a key in Alzheimer’s disease, the researchers wanted to check if boosting its level in an affected brain can cure or delay the disease. They have observed that by rising the quantity of the sodium-calcium exchanger, the affected tissue began recovering, to the point that the affected neural cells turned back to normal, being almost identical to the healthy ones.

So, does this mean that we have found a cure for Alzheimer’s? It is yet too soon to claim that, but science sure is progressing on the right track. Mr. John Elrod, a co-author of the study, confirms that the researchers are now working on a viable way to reverse the neural damage of Alzheimer’s, with the help of the information newly acquired. “Our hope is that if we can change either the expression level or the activity of this exchanger, it could be a viable therapy to use early on to perhaps impede Alzheimer’s disease development”, Elrod said.

Alzheimer’s disease is a chronic neurodegenerative condition that is responsible for 70% of the cases of dementia. It is characterized by the progressive loss of neurons and synapses. Symptoms include:

  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty in solving problems
  • Challenges in planning
  • Difficulty in doing everyday things, either at work or at home
  • Confusion regarding time and space
  • Inability to remember common words
  • Mood swings
  • Personality changes

People affected by it are usually elders, but there have been reports of people in their thirties that have been struck by it.

48 million people suffer from Alzheimer’s disease worldwide.